Louisville doctor concerned omicron COVID-19 variant could strain nearly-full ICUs

2 years ago
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Data collected through the U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS) reveal that at the start of the month, ICU beds in Louisville and Southern Indiana hospitals were at or near capacity.

A Louisville doctor is concerned the new COVID-19 omicron variant, confirmed Friday in Kentucky, could strain that further. He urged continued vaccinations, boosters along with other precautions.

The stats, posted this weekend on the HHS website, look at four hospitals in Louisville and 2 in Southern Indiana. As of Dec. 2, just over 95% of staffed adult ICU beds during these facilities were occupied.

Around 18% of these beds were occupied by patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Dr. Jon Klein, a nephrologist at University of Louisville Health, said he saw a clear, crisp increase in people hospitalized with COVID-19 about 2 weeks ago, though health officials have attributed the current spike to the delta variant.

And he said while it's not time for you to panic, there's cause for concern that the new variant could increase hospital stays.

\”I think whether or not this was omicron or delta, should you go to a COVID surge with ICU occupancy already high, I think you have to be concerned,\” Klein said.

Klein added that while initial findings from the first cases in South Africa show milder symptoms and fewer hospital stays, researchers \”don't understand what that means in the context of other countries.\”

More tests are needed to see whether omicron causes more serious illness, but Klein said even when it's milder, it still shows signs of being three to seven times more transmissible compared to highly-contagious delta variant that hit the state in summer.

That can often mean a larger pool of overall affected people, and in turn greater amounts of those who do get seriously ill.

Gov. Andy Beshear announced this weekend that the new variant have been found in Campbell, Fayette, Jefferson and Kenton counties, either through studies or wastewater surveillance.

During a news conference Saturday, Dr. Steven Stack, commissioner for that Kentucky Department for Public Health, said the new variant could take into account half or even more of COVID-19 cases in the commonwealth within weeks.

Klein urged residents to keep making plans health officials have repeated during the year.

\”I think getting vaccinated, getting boosted if you're already vaccinated and it’s more than 6 months as your second injection,\” he explained. \”I don't even enjoy to call it boosting anymore. I believe a complete series reaches least three shots.\”

Klein also encouraged social distancing, wearing a great mask such as an N-95 or KN-95 – particularly if indoors with other people whose vaccination status is unknown – and practicing good hand hygiene.

Omicron was first reported around the world Health Organization in late November, if this was detected in Nigeria. California was the first U.S. state to determine the brand new strain Dec. 1 so that as of Friday, more than 75 % of U.S. states had confirmed cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week that omicron has the potential for increased transmission and decrease in antibody treatment success.

The CDC reported, however, that current vaccines are required to avoid certain illness, hospitalizations and death.

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